San Francisco to Fort Bragg CA (via Appehension, Panic and Desperation)

Hello again. Apologies for the radio silence – no need for anyone to worry as I’m alive and well and residing in Fort Bragg.  Yes Ma’am.

On Friday morning (16 May) I left my motel in good spirits but with a little apprehension about the journey ahead. Especially in light of my first  foray into driving in America the night before. I retrieved the sat nat from the trunk of my car. What? That’s just what they call the boot over here! Just trying to fit in! I was heading off to collect Naho from her hotel. Naho is from Tokyo, Japan and is doing the same raw food course as me in Fort Bragg. She had emailed me a month ago after seeing I was offering a lift from San Francisco to Fort Bragg. We had been in regular contact by email and I had agreed to collect her from her hotel at 8am.  I allowed plenty of time for the 10 minute journey by leaving at 7.10am. Plenty of time to get lost, get back on track, have a mini panic, compose myself, etc and not be late. Hmmmm! It didn’t really work out like that.

I tapped the address in the sat nav (for the purpose of this exercise and to save having to type sat nav repeatedly i’m going to call the sat nav Lois) took a deep breath and set off. After nearly an hour of driving, due to over anticipating Lois’s instructions or not being assertive enough to get in the right lane for turning, etc (the Frisco drivers don’t really want to let you in), Lois announced that I would shortly be arriving at my destination on the left 425 Marina Boulevard). This was music to my ears, except there was no hotel there! Noooooooooo! I drove a bit further on, still no hotel. I pulled over and in desperation got out of the car and asked a passer by if he knew where the hotel was. He said he’d never heard of it and so I showed him the address I had. He exclaimed, “Dude, that address is in South San Francisco, this is San Francisco.  It’s like another city”. I was spitting distance from the Golden Gate Bridge at that moment but clearly miles away from Naho and her hotel!

I was starting to get quite anxious by now. Firstly because I had at least an hours drive to get to Naho and her hotel. Secondly because I’d driven near a huge suspension bridge which was so high up over the water that I was starting to panic. Just in case you don’t know, I have an issue with heights. I can be fine one moment and then in abject terror the next. It’s quite overwhelming.  Anyhoo, as I said, I’d seen this huge suspension bridge and it had unnerved me and made me start to question whether it was a good idea to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge.

I managed to take myself in hand and gave Lois the “correct” address to Naho’s hotel and off we set. Lois advised to drive for half a mile and then to turn right.  I followed her instructions and turned right onto what I can only describe as the highest street I’ve ever seen in my life. It was almost vertical it was that steep, and long! Oh my god! I was so scared as I could see this huge expanse of road ahead and had no idea what was on the other side of the summit. I must admit, a small part of me died at this point! I started to drive up this street with trepidation and fear. The worse thing was that there were regular stopping points to give way and I was terrified that I would lose clutch control and plunge backwards to my death causing all manner of havoc on the way.  My rookie style of driving was gaining attention and clearly annoying the locals who made their annoyance known by bibbing their horns, which as you can imagine, further added to my sense of distress. I did, however,  make it to the top and to my relief there wasn’t a sheer drop on the other side.

By now the traffic in San Francisco was rush hour as people headed to work and children were being taken to school. I wouldn’t normally enjoy being stuck in traffic but today I welcomed it. It gave me a chance to give myself a pep talk in an attempt to calm myself down. I managed to get myself under control and by and by over the next hour found my way to the Inn at Oyster Point where Naho was waiting patiently for me.

I stormed into the hotel all raw nerves endings and apologies. I must have looked demented as I rushed into the reception area all out of breath and talking at a million miles an hour.  Naho was lovely and kind and we had a good chat before setting off for our journey to Fort Bragg. To be honest I really just felt like abandoning the car and getting the two buses there.

We negotiated our way back through San Francisco and I braced myself for the drive over the Golden Gate Bridge.  I was a bit devastated about how I was feeling as I have loved the GGB since I was a kid and up until my traumatic car journey had seen the drive over the GGB as one if the highlights of the trip.  As we we getting closer I formulated a plan to just look forward and don’t look to the sides for fear of noticing how high up I was and then having a panic attack. We passed the last point at which we could turn off and forged forward. My heart was beating out of my chest and I kept driving. It was then I noticed that there were barriers to the sides of the bridge which meant that you couldn’t really get the sense of height and I felt more relaxed.

Once over the GGB and away from the City of San Francisco we headed northwards. About 9 miles later we pulled in at a place called Stinson Beach. It was a tiny town with a beautiful beach and we stopped off for a nice cup of tea and a rest.  It gave Naho and I a chance to chat and get to know each other better. I was feeling much more relaxed by now and was getting my personality back. I decided to leaved the blood-drained panicked version of myself behind and moved on.

The road trip was really starting to take shape now and we were enjoying all the beauty that North California has to offer. The sun was shining and I felt lucky to be alive. The scenery was breathtaking and varied. We drove through forests and passed beaches. I was completely blown away with how beautiful it was.  We stopped off at the Estero Cafe in Valley Ford and had lunch. It was only meant to be a toilet stop but when I asked the owner if we could use the “bathroom” she told us it was for customer’s only! So we immediately converted ourselves into customers by ordering lunch and everyone was happy.  I must say the Thai coconut soup was to die for.

Following lunch we hit the road again and enjoyed a further pleasurable assault on our senses as North California ticked all the boxes. At this point I was driving like a local and loving every minute of it. Around 4pm I started to become concerned as we had to return the rental car to Fort Bragg by 5pm and we were about an hour and a half away. We arrived at Enterprise car rentals about 5.2 fully expecting the office to be locked up as they close at 5pm. We were pleasantly surprised when it was still open. We were greeted by a lovely lady who said she’d waited for us. We handed the car back and asked for directions to the inn where we would be staying. She gave us directions and just as we were walking away she called us back and said she would give us a lift. She took us in her own car and showed us some warm Californian hospitality.  The lady in question was called Ellen.

Welcome to Fort Bragg – I never thought I’d get here alive but here I am. Praise the Lord! X





Manchester to San Francisco via Chicago


Please accept my apologies if this narrative sounds extremely long-winded and meanders in and out of coherency.  In my defence I’ve hardly slept a wink since Monday night due to a combination of excitement, apprehension,  abject terror and many other feelings and emotions. I’ve just had about 3 hours sleep in my king sized bed in the Travelodge North near San Francisco airport – it’s not enough but as I’m awake I thought I’d blurt out the journey while it’s still fresh (?) in my head. Here goes:-

Thursday morning I managed to to leave the house and drag my case and sleep deprived self to the bus stop. Was out and about so early that Dan Jones one of my work mates passed me on his motor bike and we had a giddy chat. All credit to First buses whose first bus of the day arrived on time and took me to Bolton train station.  I met my old friend Netty there and we caught the packed 7.08am train to the airport. After trying to check in with US Airlines by mistake I finally was correctly checked in with American Airlines. Netty and  had a farewell breakfast and off I went.

Whist waiting to board my flight I found myself sat between a rabbi and a rasta which was pretty surreal. I loved the diversity of it. Especially whilst the three of us sat there and had our hand luggage sniffed by the two police dogs (cocker spaniels). I nearly exploded with excitement as I’ve always loved “dogs with jobs”.

I was allocated an aisle seat in my jumbo jet and the passenger to my right was a 6′ 4″ computer parts salesman from Kansas. He was a lovely guy and we had great conversations over the 8 hour flight. He had the longest legs ever and they kept invading my personal space. I kept thinking of “Dirty Dancing” – my dance space, your dance space! Well his long legs had no concept of personal space and they kept salsa-ing into my dance space. Well after a Run DMC style dance off which only really happened in my fevered imagination we touched down at Chicago’s O’Hare airport. Managed to get through Customs without event! Phew! Anyone who knows me well knows how I can accidentally blurt out inappropriate comments. Not this time. So proud of myself! Good jawb!

O’Hare airport completely wowed me as it had a lot of things that I would expect in a cosmopolitan city but not an airport. O’Hare offers a yoga room which is a lovely space with a wooden floor and a tv screen with a serene buddhist temple displayed on the wall; an urban garden which grows all sorts of salad leaves, herbs, chillies, etc. As well as a children’s museum.  There was a repeated announcement over the tannoy which amused me – “Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially when you’ve caught a sneeze”. Love it.

My connecting flight from Chicago to San Francisco was delayed by nearly 2 hours during which time I covered pretty much every inch of Terminal 3. When I eventually boarded the fight I noticed that the types of passengers had changed. The Manchester to Chicago flight was very much a 50/50 split – half rice (Americans) and half Brits. However, on the the Chicago to San Francisco flight I started to feel like the minority. Not in a bad way but most accents were American.  A felt like a British buoy bobbing about in an American ocean. The grey mesh curtain was pulled to separate the economy passengers from the few elite (ha ha) passengers. However due to the meshy nature of the curtain, me and my fellow cheapskates could see the other passengers luxuriating on huge seats that could recline enough for them to completely lie down! And if that wasn’t enough we could see the steward treating them like royalty whilst us lessers mortals could only look on enviously! Hey ho! We got through it in tact and managed to avoid DVT, which after all the sitting down I’ve taken to mean “deeply veined tooshie”.

Our in flight film was The Hunger Games but I was too tired to watch it so I just listened to the iin-flight soundtrack. However I feel that hunger isn’t something you can build a game around. The contestants wouldn’t have the energy to compete. The mere idea of it makes me want to reach for an emergency dextrose tablet. On our side of the grey mesh curtain we were offered regular free drinks. As I was struggling with having been awake for so long and my mind was delving into the deep and dark crevises of my mind, I ordered a coffee. I was asked how I wanted it and I said white. I was given a cup of black coffee and two sachets which, without my reading glasses, I assumed to be sugar. So I asked for some milk and the stewardess informed me that they only had “non dairy creamer”. I said I thought it was sugar to which she looked confused and asked me if I wanted sugar to which I replied “no thanks”. Don’t really know why I told you that but I felt it was significant to demonstrate that I wasn’t coping with the cultural differences.

I forget to mention Sheila, a 59 year old realtor from San Francisco who I had a great chat with whilst sitting out the 2 hour delay to our flight.  Sheila was just returning to the US 8 days early after abandoning a holiday in the Costa del Sol with her 80 year old mother-in-law. She told me that her m-i-l had been an absolute nightmare from day one. She treated Sheila really badly. Sheila mentioned that this trip had been postponed twice – once because the flight was cancelled due to bad weather and another time when the cruise liner they were due to use crashed. I feel that the world was trying to warn Sheila not to go! Sheila agreed with me and said she’d never go on holiday with her m-i-l again

Well, I said this account would be long-winded and rambly and it was! I had to write it down as I have a mind like a sieve. All my memories are washed away apart from the ones that are too cumbersome to fit through the mesh. Like the time when … well, perhaps now isn’t the moment to get into that one!

By the way what does in flight wifi connect you to? And what does the fi stand for? I know it’s fidelity in hifi but it doesn’t seem to work here. Fee fi fo fum!

After all of the above I finally got to my motel about 24 hours after leaving home. The flight delay meant I had to drive my intermediate rental car (it’s effing huge) on my own in the dark.  Misunderstood the sat nav and accidentally ended up on the freeway – to say my nerves were jarred would be an understatement! I’ve never felt more alive! Then I couldn’t even make the lights work in my room! I mean, how difficult could it be? Anyhoo, after a spinach and mushroom omlette I had a well deserved hot shower and took myself off to my king sized bed!

3 hours sleep later I’m feeling a lot more like myself. Feeling a lot more optimistic about the road trip today. Just need to find my course mate’s hotel and then at least I’ll have another person to panic with! Ha ha! Bring it on!

Anyhoo – photos to follow, probably when I get safely up to Fort Bragg. Going to post this now just in case I press the wrong button and delete all my hard work.

Thanks for all the encouragement and support I’ve received from my lovely friends and family.  I’m lucky to have so many amazing people in my life! Oh crap, I’ve made myself cry! Sorry guys, I’m too soft for my own good!